02&03, April 2017

1.South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program of Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Source: PIB

South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program of Asian Development Bank (ADB) is expanding towards the East with Myanmar formally becoming the 7th member of SASEC in 2017.

Key facts:

  • Myanmar is key to realizing greater connectivity and stronger trade and economic relations between the SASEC sub-region and the countries of East and Southeast Asia and that Myanmar’s membership in SASEC can offer a host of opportunities for realizing synergies from economic cooperation in the sub-region.
  • SASEC member countries recognize that most of SASEC’s multimodal connectivity initiatives include Myanmar.
    • Road corridors in Myanmar provide the key links between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
    • Ports in Myanmar will provide additional gateways to the landlocked North Eastern region of India.
    • Development of multi-modal connectivity between North Eastern region of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar has the potential of unleashing tremendous economic energy in the sub-region.
  • SASEC’s energy connectivity and energy trade prospects will be enhanced with the inclusion of Myanmar, involving its substantial resources of hydropower and natural gas.
    • Moreover, developmental impacts of economic corridor in the SASEC sub-region will be maximized by exploring potential synergies with corridors in Myanmar that are linked to those in other Southeast Asian countries.

SASEC:

  • Myanmar was accorded an observer status of SASEC in 2013 when ADB’s annual meeting was held in Noida, India. Myanmar has been participating in annual SASEC Nodal Officials’ meetings as an observer since 2014. It was invited by the participating countries of SASEC countries to become a full member in 2015.
  • The SASEC program was formed in 2001 in response to the request of the four countries of South Asia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – from ADB to assist in facilitating economic cooperation among them. These four countries comprise the South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ), formed in 1996, as a vehicle for accelerating sustainable economic development through regional cooperation.
  • As a project-based partnership, the SASEC program has been helping realize regional prosperity by enhancing cross-border connectivity, facilitating faster and more efficient trade and promoting cross-border power trade.
  • Maldives and Sri Lanka joined SASEC in 2014, further expanding opportunities for enhancing economic linkages in the sub-region.

SESEC which is members countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in a project-based partnership that aims to promote regional prosperity, improve economic opportunities, and build a better quality of life for the people of the subregion.

Asian Development Bank

  • Conceived in the 1960s, the ADB was established to foster economic growth and cooperation across Asia and the Pacific. In 5 decades, ADB has mobilized more than $250 billion in infrastructure, research, and knowledge sharing, thus creating opportunities and prosperity, which contributed to the region’s historic global rise.
  • ASIAN WATER DEVELOPMENT OUTLOOK 2016 RELEASED AT WORLD WATER WEEK IN STOCKHOLM
  • Water security in Asia and Pacific has progressed overall in the past 5 years, but major challenges remain, including overexploited groundwater, demand from rising populations, and climate variability, according to a new report from the ADB.
  • Asian Development Bank/Headquarters: Mandaluyong, Philippines

SASEC countries share a common vision of boosting intraregional trade and cooperation in South Asia, while also developing connectivity and trade with Southeast Asia through Myanmar, to the People’s Republic of China, and the global market.

2.IISc researchers’ ecofriendly way of recycling e-waste

Source: The Hindu

The low-temperature crushing reduced e-waste into metals, oxides, polymer without using chemicals

Key facts:

  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) researchers have found a novel way to recycle the mounting pile of electronic waste more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • According to the United National Environmental Programme, about 50 million tonnes of e-waste is generated annually across the world.
  • The new approach is based on the idea of crushing e-waste into nanosize particles using a ball mill at very low temperature ranging from -50 to -150 degree C.
  • When crushed to nanosize particles for about 30 minutes, different classes of materials — metals, oxides and polymer — that go into the making of electronic items get physically reduced into their constituent phases, which can then be separated without using any chemicals. The use of low-temperature grinding eliminates noxious emission.

E- waste:

  • E-Waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by the owner as waste without the intention of re-use.
  • India fifth largest producer of e-waste
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified e-waste management rules, 2016, in which producers are for the first time covered under extended producers’ responsibility (EPR).

Why is e-waste growing?

  • E-Waste is growing exponentially because global consumer demand continues to increase.
  • As many parts of our expanding world cross over to the other side of the ‘Digital Divide’, the contemporary consumer demands the means to enjoy an easier more comfortable lifestyle. But that very understandable demand creates a downstream problem of safe disposability.
  • The demand is irresistible so the need for a solution becomes ever more urgent.

The great global challenge

  • The e-waste problem is of global concern because of the nature of production and disposal of waste in a globalized world.
  • It is difficult to quantify global e-waste amounts, but we do know that large volumes end up in places where processing occurs at a very rudimentary level
  • This raises concerns about resource efficiency and also the immediate concerns of the dangers to humans and the environment.

Others like E – Parisaraa-  Follow 3 R’s – Reduce ReUse Recycle:

  • E-Parisaraa Pvt. Ltd, India’s first Government authorized electronic waste recycler started operations from September 2005, is engaged in handling, recycling and reusing of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in ecofriendly way.
  • The objective of E-Parisaraa is to create an opportunity to transfer waste into socially and industrially beneficial raw materials like valuable metals, plastics and glass using simple, cost efficient, home grown, environmental friendly technologies suitable to Indian Conditions.

3.GAAR raises issue of taxman’s powers

Source: The Hindu

With the government implementing its anti tax avoidance rules from April 1, industry is concerned about the greater subjective authority being given to the tax department and how this could render transactions unprofitable.

GAAR is a set of rules under which the tax department get the right to scrutinise transactions if they believe that they are structured for the purpose of avoiding taxes.

Key facts:

  • The General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) are designed to prevent the avoidance of tax by taking advantage of international tax laws.
  • The rules say that if the major outcome of a transaction is a tax benefit and there is no sound business basis for the transaction, then the government can invoke GAAR and reclassify the transaction or the profits arising from it and make them taxable.
  • Originally, the rules were supposed to be implemented from April 1, 2014 onwards, but protests from foreign investors meant the implementation was delayed twice. Earlier this year, the Income Tax Department issued a set of clarification aimed at clarifying the issues raised by the foreign investors.
  • The Department clarified that GAAR will not be invoked in cases where investments are routed through tax treaties that have a sufficient limitation of benefit (LOB). Such LOB clauses usually require the investor to meet certain investment and employment requirements so that only resident companies benefit from the deal.

Background for GAAR :

  • Lord Tomlin has well said “Every man is entitled to order his affairs so that tax attaching under the appropriate Acts is less than it otherwise would be” (IRC v Duke of Westminster). People adopt various methods so that they can reduce their total tax liability.
  • The methods adopted to reduce their tax liability can be broadly put into four categories : “Tax Evasion”; “Tax Avoidance”,  “Tax Mitigation” and “Tax Planning”.  The difference between these four methods some times becomes blurred  owing to the perception of the tax authorities and / or tax payer.

4.What are the rights of a tenant under the law?

Source: The Hindu

The Rent Control Act offers security of tenure to the tenants and restricts the landlords’ power to evict tenants

Rent Control Act

  • The general scheme of the Rent Control Act, that is, the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960 and similar Acts in other States in India, is to control rent and protect tenants from unauthorised eviction by landlords.
  • The Rent Control Act offers reasonable security of tenure to the tenants and restricts the landlords’ power to evict tenants.

Status of tenancy

  • A tenant can be a contractual tenant or a statutory tenant.
  • A contractual tenant is someone who occupies the premises and is entitled to the possession of the premises during the term of the contract.
  • While a statutory tenancy comes into existence where a contractual tenant retains possession after the contract is terminated.

Considering that exercised the option to extend your tenancy, the rental agreement stands automatically extended for another two years, thereby making you a contractual tenant.

Fixation of fair rent

  • As your landlord has agreed not to increase the rent during the extended tenancy, his demand for an increase in rent is unjustified.
  • However, the landlord will be entitled to approach a Rent Control Court to fix fair rent for the building even during the term of the rental agreement.
  • The fair rent for a residential building is a percentage (9 per cent) of the total value of the building which consists of the market value for a portion of the land, cost of construction (as per rates fixed by the Public Works Department) and value of amenities (subject to a maximum of 15 per cent of the cost of the site) but subject to depreciation, depending on the age of the building.
  • If such fair rent is greater than the existing rent, then despite the contractual understanding, you will be required to pay the fair rent fixed by Court.

Rights of tenant

  • Under law and as decided in numerous judgments, it is unlawful for a landlord to disconnect essential services such as electricity and water or restrict a tenant from using common amenities for recovery of rental dues or for other reasons.
  • If a landlord indulges in such activities, the tenant may approach the Rent Control Court to restore essential services and take action against the landlord.
  • It is recommended that you do not stop paying rent to the landlord for any reason. If the landlord fails to accept rent, first issue a notice in writing to the landlord, asking for details of a bank into which the tenant can directly deposit the rent to the credit of the landlord. If the landlord fails to respond, send the rent via money order to the landlord. If this attempt to pay the rent also fails, you should immediately file an application before a Rent Control Court to deposit further rents in Court.
  • As far as eviction is concerned, the landlord would have to file a petition before the competent Rent Control Court to seek eviction of the tenant.
    • Under the Rent Control Act, landlords can evict tenants only under specific grounds, which include wilful default in rent payment, subletting without the prior consent, causing nuisance or when the landlord himself requires premises for personal occupation.
  • It is relevant to note that in the case of contractual tenancy, which is granted for a specific period, the landlord will not be entitled to apply for possession of the building for his own bona fide additional accommodation. However, it is necessary for the tenant to establish contractual tenancy under a registered rental agreement where registration is mandated.

Conclussion:

  • It is recommended that you continue to pay rent as per your rental agreement for the extended term. If your landlord is desirous of fixing fair rent for the premises or, alternatively, evicting you from the premises, he will have to follow the procedure provided for under the Rent Control Act.
  • If the landlord indulges in any unlawful activity to force you to leave the premises, you have the right to approach the Rent Control Court to seek suitable relief.

5.New scheme for powerlooms unveiled

Source: The Hindu

The aim is to boost common infrastructure and modernise the sector

  • The Union Ministry of Textiles has launched PowerTex India, a three-year comprehensive scheme for Power loom Sector Development.
  • The PowerTex India scheme aims to boost common infrastructure and modernisation of the power loom sector in the country.

Key facts

  • The scheme, with an outlay of ₹487 crores for three years from 2017-2018, has nine major components, including two new ones.
  • The two new schemes are: Pradhan Mantri Credit Scheme for power loom weavers and solar energy scheme for power looms.
  • PowerTex India scheme comprises new research and development in power loom textiles, new markets, branding, subsidies and welfare schemes for the workers.
  • It has overall nine major components, including two new schemes. It has outlay of Rs. 487 crores for three years from 2017-18.
  • The two new schemes are Pradhan Mantri Credit Scheme (PMCS) for powerloom weavers and solar energy scheme (SEC) for powerlooms.
  • PMCS for powerlooms: Under it, financial assistance, including margin money subsidy and interest reimbursement, will be given as against the credit facility under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana to the decentralised power loom units.
  • SEC for powerlooms: Under it, financial subsidy for the installation of the Solar Photo Voltaic Plants will be provided to alleviate the problems of power cuts.
  • Government will provide subsidy of 50% to power loom units having maximum eight looms for adopting solar energy for captive use either in grid or off grid system.

The comprehensive scheme has the following components:

  • In-situ Upgradation of Plain Powerlooms
  • Group Work shed Scheme (GWS)
  • Yarn Bank Scheme
  • Common Facility Centre (CFC)
  • Pradhan Mantri Credit Scheme for Powerloom Weavers
  • Solar Energy Scheme for Powerlooms
  • Facilitation, IT, Awareness, Market Development and Publicity for Powerloom Schemes
  • Tex Venture Capital Fund
  • Grant-in-Aid and Modernisation & Upgradation of Powerloom Service Centres (PSCs).

6.Release of the Central Government’s assistance fund from National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to State of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Drought Relief

Source: PIB

The Central Government is concerned at prevailing drought situation in the States of  Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

  • After the receipt of detailed memoranda from these States, Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT) were deputed to visit the drought affected areas for the spot assessment of the calamity.
  • The High Level Committee (HLC) had recommended the quantum of assistance to the States based on the extant norms of assistance and the report of the IMCT.
  • This amount has been approved by the HLC on the basis of the report of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team sent by the Central Government to assess the damage.

Key facts:

  • Based on the approval of the High Level Committee (HLC), the Central Government has sanctioned Rs.1793.63 crore to State of Tamil Nadu ‘Vardha cyclone’ and Drought relief and Rs. 1,782.44 crore to State of Karnataka for drought relief from NDRF.
  • Based on the above sanctions, a sum of Rs.1447.99 crore has been released to the State of Tamil Nadu by the Central Government from NDRF after adjusting Rs.345.64 crore available with the State as balance in the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • The HLC has also advised the State Governments to take utmost care and ensure that all the individual beneficiary-oriented assistance are mandatorily disbursed through the bank account of the beneficiaries.

Other than Drought relief funds:

  • These releases are over and above the releases made to States as devolution of 42% of Central Taxes as per the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission. For the year 2016-17, a sum of Rs.6.08 lakh crore has been released to all States as devolution of Central Taxes. Tamil Nadu has received Rs. 24,538 crore and Karnataka has received Rs.28,750 crore under devolution formula during 2016-17.
  • During 2016-17, the Central Government has also provided Rs.48,869 crore to all the States as grant for Rural and Urban Local Bodies to primarily meet the requirement of basic necessities for people living in these areas.
  • For the benefit of farmers, Rs.13,240 crore has been provided under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana (PMFBY) in 2016-17.
  • Also, Rs.2,45,435 crore has been provided under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) for transfer to the States from the Central Government during 2016-17. This includes Rs.47,499 crore for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) which is used for employment generation and water conservation works.
  • In view of onset of the summer season, the Prime Minister has instructed that in the next three months, all the States should focus on water conservation related works by utilizing the funds available under various Schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) and MGNREGS etc.

7.‘Foreign ownership norms a barrier’

Source: The Hindu

The report on foreign trade barriers was recently released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The annual report points to a list of trade irritants in 63 nations.

Indian regulations on foreign ownership in e-commerce, banks, insurance and other online-related services were major barriers for overseas investors.

Foreign Direct Investment:

  • India allows for 100% foreign direct investment in business-to-business (B2B) electronic commerce, but largely prohibits foreign investment in business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic commerce transactions.
  • Foreign direct investment is allowed in a market-based electronic retailing model, but not in the inventory-based model.
  • According to the report, the only exception that was granted was to single-brand retailers. Single-brand retailers who meet certain conditions including the operation of physical stores in India may undertake to trade through electronic commerce. This narrow exception limits the ability of the majority of potential B2C electronic commerce foreign investors to access the Indian market.

Report:

  • The trade barriers report also pointed out India’s tax (6% equalisation levy) on foreign online advertising platforms was not par with the international norms and warned the levy in its current form may impede foreign trade and increase the risk of retaliation from other countries where Indian companies are doing business.
  • The report also pointed out that the levy would result in taxes on business income even when a foreign resident does not have a permanent establishment in India or when underlying activities are not carried out in India.

Data storage:

  • According to the report, the Indian requirements of storage of data within India reduce productivity, dampen domestic investment and undermine the ability of information and communications technology companies to offer cutting-edge services.
  • The 2012 National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, issued by the Ministry of Science & Technology, which requires that all data collected using public funds — including weather data — be stored within the borders of India.
  • It also pointed out the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) guidelines requiring cloud computing service providers to store data within India to qualify for bidding for government procurements.

Compulsory public listing:

  • The report also highlighted Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority’s (IRDA) discussion paper that called for the compulsory public listing of life insurers that have been in operation in India for seven years or more.
  • According to the report, such a requirement, if implemented, would be another measure that would have a discouraging effect on foreign investors.

8.Eclipses of binary star shed light on orbiting exoplanet

Source: The Hindu

A team of scientists from Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru, and University of Delhi have seen for the first time indications of a massive planet orbiting a low mass X-ray binary star system.

The technique that has been used, namely, X-ray observations, is a new way of detecting exoplanets.

X-ray binaries

  • X-ray binaries consist of a pair of stars orbiting each other of which one is compact one such as a black hole or a neutron star (in this case, a neutron star). The neutron star draws matter from its less-massive companion. The mass when drawn generates X-rays which are detected by detectors placed in satellites in space.

Key facts:

  • The star system in question, MXB 1658-298 is an X-ray binary and a part of the constellation Ophiuchus (serpent bearer).
  • The system is nearly 30,000 light years away and the planet is expected to be nearly 8,000 times as massive as the earth.

Background:

  • Discovered in 1976, this binary star system is so far and so faint that it may be observed only when it shows “outbursts” of X-rays. That is, an increase in X-ray intensity by a factor of 100 or more. Recently this system showed an outburst. This provided researchers with an excellent opportunity to try to trace the orbital evolution of this system.
  • As the two stars revolve around each other, the less-massive companion star hides the compact star everytime it crosses the line of sight, in between the detector and the neutron star, giving rise to eclipses.
  • In X-ray binaries, the time in-between eclipses of the source can increase, decrease and also shows abrupt changes. This system, MXB 1658-298, is special in that the time between the eclipses increases and decreases periodically.
  • The eclipse first arrived about ten seconds earlier and after about a year, arrived about ten seconds later that what would be expected [if these was no other body disturbing the system]. The team was surprised by this unusual behavior.
  • This periodic variation implied that there was a third body orbiting the system.



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